The 7 Circles of Brunch Hell
I love brunch. We love brunch. Combining breakfast and lunch into a cheesy, greasy, boozy weekend debauch is a brilliant idea, both in theory and in practice. This is an undeniable truth, and anyone who says otherwise is a largish fool. Lowercase-b brunch is heaven. But that's not the only brunch there is.
Capital-B Brunch, on the other hand, is dreadful. It's "A Thing": an ordeal, a project, a nouveau-riche McMansion built on the sandy foundations of deep insecurity and credit debt. It is "Brunchhhhhhhmyfuckinggodwhy.” Capital-B Brunch is hell, and like hell, it has many circles. Here they are, arranged in rough chronological order based on when in your horrible, wretched life you will experience them.
The First Circle of Brunch Hell: Boozy Brunch
Contrary to what you may have been told -- by the Internet at large, people who write for this website, and even, at various times, the person writing this sentence -- Boozy Brunch is a heinous, destructive, and thoroughly objectionable sham.
You wake up in an utter heap. Because you KILLED it last night. Because you are the kind of monster who goes to Boozy Brunch. For the next two to four hours, you will pour pulpy gutter runoff into the insatiable bad-breath cavern on the front of your face. “I don’t even think there’s any vodka in this,” you will laugh to your friends, whose Ray-Ban Wayfarers will laugh back at you as though you just told the funniest joke. They, too, work hard and play hard, which is why they are here with you, lashed to the bow of a sinking social ship of privilege and pork belly hash.
Speaking of pork belly: you will probably order food. Perhaps you will eat it; perhaps you will simply Instagram it. Either way, it’s not important. What’s important is that when the allotted duration of your forced liquor march is up, you are going to rush home to powerfully spray paint the inside of your toilet with a savage cocktail of caffeine and regret. Regret that you did what you did; regret that you are who you are. And then, prepare to level up to the next circle of Brunch Hell.
The Second Circle: Party Brunch
Comprised of shiny shirts named Theo, Champagne magnums with sparklers on them, and women who order the lobster just to stare at it in a drug-addled haze, Party Brunch is a self-evident grease trap of capitalist shitbaggery. It is full of big egos, bad food, and worse people. All of them have seen the DJ -- there's always a DJ -- spin when they were in Ibiza last winter. Have you been to Ibiza? You really must go to Ibiza. If it strikes you as unpleasant to watch waitresses in sequined bustiers trotting around caviar-studded eggs Benedict while Theo yells into your ear about the renminbi, you'll be in a pit of agony at Party Brunch.
The Third Circle: “Cute” Brunch
Do you see that artisanal goat cheese & honey danish? Right there, docilely reclined on a piece of authentic upstate barn wood sourced from the owner’s grandfather’s chicken coop and lovingly refinished to honor family history while accentuating a rustic patina? Yeah, that shit costs $19. You are at "Cute" Brunch now, bitch, and you are about to shoulder the full financial weight of making “smart” choices about “living your best life.”
Honestly, the hit to your bank account isn’t going to be the worst part of this embarrassing charade. Everything else is the worst part. Look around you; see the floppy felt hats. Breathe in the aroma of leather emanating from the 13 identical Madewell bags in the joint. Do you realize how many guys are wearing Bonobos in your immediate vicinity? It’s not zero! "Cute" Brunch is like an anal suppository of dilettantery right into the butt of your soul. No matter how many killer ‘grams you get of #adorbz gimlets and #ZOMGnomnom Nutella-stuffed French toast, you will leave feeling empty. And by then, it will be too late, because you're just headed to the next circle.
The Fourth Circle: Brunch at Someone’s Apartment
“We’re hosting A Bloody Good Brunch next weekend! Comeeeee <33” the email subject line will read. Inside is a Paperless Post invitation laboriously created by the most boring couple you know demanding your presence at their homespun trash-food tryst for “a Saturday of tipsy fun, new friends, and most importantly: GOOD FOOD!”
Spoiler alert! None of that is true! Having brunch at someone’s apartment is like having sex in someone’s shower: unless that person is extremely wealthy, it is going to be uncomfortable, underwhelming, and weird to make eye contact during or after. It’s crowded, and there’s never enough booze. You will eat a plate of lukewarm scrambled eggs perched on your knees, desperately trying not to spill any on a couch that you’d rather not be sitting on anyway. Upon leaving, you will probably get into a fight with your significant other, one of those weird non-shouting shouting matches. Whatever the fight is about, you picked it because of this brunch.
The Fifth Circle: Singles Brunch
Aside from the potential for casual sex with strangers, and the guilt-free farting, being single is a trying experience. One of its biggest challenges is finding other single people to brunch with, because Lord knows you don't want to third-wheel your waffles across the table from a happy couple. And so spawns Singles Brunch.
Usually, what this means is Single Ladies Brunch. (There's also Single Bros Brunch, and Single Gays Brunch, but the former is rare, and the latter is too complex for a straight guy to discuss in responsible detail.) Single Ladies Brunch is different than "Cute" Brunch in several ways: everyone is single, everyone is a lady, and everyone is either going to Coachella, just got back from Coachella, or already bought their tickets for next year's Coachella. 'CHELLA #VIBES, BETCH!
Single Ladies Brunch will often involve shots, gossip, aviator sunglasses, and someone named Taylor showing up late because she was at Pure Barre. It is loud, it is chaotic, and it is fundamentally uncontrollable. There's no telling whether Single Ladies Brunch will end in tears, a dive bar, or tears cried in a dive bar. Fear Single Ladies Brunch.
The Sixth Circle: Adult Brunch
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing this generation’s new parents that they were still totally welcome at social gatherings with their splotchy brood. This is the defining trait of Adult Brunch -- slightly overweight Noah Baumbach characters who spitefully drag their babies into the public sphere, prattle on incessantly about Knausgaard's latest whatever, and dietarily restrict themselves out of everything on the menu. These people are ghouls.
If you get invited to brunch in a neighborhood with multiple juice bars, by one of your “grown-up” friends, you should expect an Adult Brunch. Even if they don’t have a child, I’d consider faking your own death if I were you. At the very least, never speak to this person again, because they are not your friend. Friends don’t let friends Adult Brunch.
The Seventh Circle: Family Brunch
Family is great. Family Brunch is a miserable affair filled with anxiety. Do your parents know how to get to the restaurant? Does the restaurant serve turkey bacon for Grandma? Is any restaurant that's any good going to seat a party of 12 people? The most hellish characteristic of Family Brunch is that you want it to be good. After all, you love your family (probably), and they love you (also probably). But a big, multi-generational group of related diners simply has too many moving pieces. Your Family Brunch will fail, and it will cause you unspeakable anguish. You will grit your teeth and apologize to Aunt Cathy for the "slow" service, even though how the hell do you expect this poor server to get you your pancakes in a timely fashion when there are literally 11 other people at this table, and eight other tables in their section? Do you understand how restaurants work, Cath? DO YOU?!
Mark my words: Family Brunch is the Brunch of Regret. Sure, your intentions were good. But the longest-suffering sinner in hell is the one who arrived there on a road paved with good intentions.
Hell is other people, and capital-B Brunch is, by definition, an experience that includes other people. Therefore, it's indisputable: Brunch Is Hell. The sooner you embrace this truth, the better your life will be. You will wake up on Saturday morning, roll over to your lover or FaceTime a close friend, and go eat lowercase-b brunch. You may have a drink; you may Instagram your food; you may gossip. But these things will exist in the service of eating a meal that combines the best of breakfast and lunch. The meal will not exist in service of these things. That, my friends, is brunch, and brunch is heaven.
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